For some people, seeing the future comes easy.
It’s a little like knowing what tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers would be. Chance are–you could stand on a street corner and shout them out–and most folks would just shrug their shoulders and think you’re nuts.
That’s kind of how it is with Gary V.
Some folks think he’s nuts. But when he lays out his vision of how business is going to be massively disrupted by the web, you’d be crazy not to pay attention.
Flash back in time. There were companies that though the Internet was a fad–companies like Blockbuster and Borders. Meanwhile Amazon and Netflix saw the future–see how that turned out?
In Gary’s new book, The Thank You Economy, he makes a passionate case for the new social web, what we call today ‘Social Media’, as driving a change in the way things are bought and sold. In fact, the very way the economy works. He dismisses the phrase ‘social media’ because he says it lulls brands into a false sense that ‘social’ is just another kind of ‘media’ to be purchased. But Gary’s emphasis is on the ‘social’–and on brands and companies having real, personal, one to one relationships with their customers.
The great thing about reading Gary V is that he’s lived transformation he’s preaching. The son of immigrants, he remembers sweeping up the family liquor store when a customer came and tried to redeem a $4.99 discount coupon on a bottle of wine they’d bought the day before for $5.99. The store manager said no, and Gary knew even then that dollar had cost the store a customer for life. Flash forward and Gary–who’s grown the store Wine Library in to a 50 million dollar business finds that he’s able to have one one one relationships with his customers. Responding to questions, sharing tips, and being human by connecting on the web.
So, Gary’s message in The Thank You economy is that the old world rules of the local butcher now apply to all businesses. The butcher knew what cut of meat you liked. The corner bar knew what you drank. And people said please and thank you. Now, increasingly–businesses that use the new tools of the connected web to will win, and Gary says those that ignore this massive shift will perish.
Driving this change is the shift from scarcity to abundance. Back in the olden days–there were 3 TV networks. A whole country of viewers, and three choices. So, networks could say–if you don’t like what’s one, change the channel. They didn’t care, you’d be back. But today, with more than a thousand cable TV channels, and the massive web video world, you ignore your customers feedback at your peril.
The Thank You Economy is chuck full of great examples, real life stories, and the voice of an entrepreneur who’s passionate about sharing what he sees in the future. Gary’s one to one marketing is impressive, and exhilarating. But he warns, for brands, agencies, and consultants who try and turn ‘thank you’ into a calculated “return on investment’ you’re bound to lose.
To help share the story of the book, Gary has posters up in New York that say: “What’s the ROI of Your Mother?” and then, a phone number to call Gary and talk about the answer. The only caveat, he says he won’t answer the phone when he’s on an airplane or in meeting. So far, he says, people who call the number mostly hang up–they’re so un accustomed to people actually ANSWERING the phone. Here, here’s the number–try it. You’ll reach Gary–I promise.
By now, you’re thinking–‘sure, one guy can do this–but we’re just too big.’ Gary was expecting that. He says that companies that cut customers service to ‘save you money’ are just plain lying and wrong. He points to Zappos, which considers it’s phone line it’s most powerful tool to connect with customers, and provide a human face and voice to the brand. Zappos considers the cost of it’s phone interactions a marketing investment. And Gary says they’ve got it right.
Gary’s vision of a world of connections, human scale, transparent, and real seems almost within our reach. And Gary says, if you don’t have the time, or interesting to talk to your customers -and to respond to their needs -then maybe you’re just too big.
Amen to that.
Steven Rosenbaum is the author of Curation Nation, published by McGrawHill.
*photo credit Ari Greenberg